The Moment Il Lombardia Was Won

He did it, hut he did it the hard way. Tadej Pogačar didn’t bank on his sprint in a small group but threw caution to the wind with a solo attack down the final descent.

Not quite the vanilla start where an breakaway floated, it took several moves and we saw Filippo Ganna among the attackers. The important early event was Remco Evenepoel crashing along with UAE’s Sjoerd Bax. Bax came off worse with a fractured femur while Evenpoel looked sore, his kit shredded.

The Ghisallo “climb”, taken the wrong way from Asso, saw things calm down as the day’s breakaway established a lead. EF Education and Jumbo-Visma worked to ensure it didn’t get much more than four minutes, the proverbial tight leash.

Lombardia Italy’s fourth biggest region. You could tour it in a week and still have places to explore, a region that has the high Alps and flat plains but this race sticks to the characteristic foothills and lakes. The weather was worthy of a postcard, dappling sunshine on the lakes, just golden enough to highlight the pastel-painted villas. For a good while this was all there was to enjoy given the racing was processional.

Things got going on the climb to Berbenno as team Soudal-Quickstep massed on the front of the bunch with Mauri Vansevanant setting the pace with his pecking-chicken style where presumably his team’s core strength trainer is rubbing their hands in anticipation of the next Calpe sessions. The pace saw several including Enric Mas, last year’s runner-up, dropped. But Evenepoel too? He seemed to drift back too, he stopped, changed his radio and so the Belgian team shut things down.

Ben Healy attacked early on the Passo dello Crocetta with DSM’s Oscar Onley, a Celtic combine of sorts. EF Education’s plan clear, they’d been working earlier and now launched Healy with a longshot move that might give him the win and if not force others to chase while team leader Richard Carapaz could go with the big names on the next climb. Healy’s one of the season’s revelations and already rivals know two things: he can’t sprint and you don’t gift him a minute’s lead. So UAE, Quickstep and Jumbo-Visma gave chase.

This race is branded as il Lombardia, instead of the Giro di Lombardia, because organisers RCS want to preserve the Giro label for their grand tour. Yet the race with its longer Alpine-style climbs was now resembling the Giro and a grand tour stage for the way the last climb to Ganda was the set-piece event and Jumbo-Visma and UAE were jostling for position on the approach to the climb. Adam Yates attacked the acceleration saw Evenepoel dropped.

A group formed with Adam Yates, Andrea Bagioli, Simon Yates and Chris Harper, Michael Woods, Richard Carapaz and Aleksandr Vlasov, and Tadej Pogačar floated across while Primoz Roglič was either being very patient or struggling as he took his time to make it across.

Adam Yates did a solid turn and Pogačar attacked and only Vlasov could follow. The move suggested Pogačar was the strongest, but only just. He could make moves and open up a gap, but just. UAE here has the numbers and this helped too, but just. Yates was less Plan B and more sherpa. As Pogačar and Vlasov approached the top of the climb Roglič made his move to bridge the gap in his wake Bagioli, Simon Yates, Carapaz, Carlos Rodriguez and Adam Yates made it across. Carapaz was only metres behind but by himself.

Only instead of a regrouping and riders catching their breath, Tadej Pogačar attacked and went down the descent solo. Visibly schussing down the bends faster he began to open up a gap, at first just a few metres and daylight amid one helicopter TV shot, then a few seconds and the gap kept growing.

This move was risk twice over, tactically for having to take risks down a tricky descent, strategically because there was still a long flat road to come where a group can ride faster. But it also meant Pogačar got an option on any motorbike traffic ahead and every time the chase group hesitated he gained a few more seconds. The stand-off grew and soon Pogačar had almost a minute. Only then then he started he started to get cramp, introducing a moment of suspense for everyone. But his legs didn’t seize up and behind the chase group was splitting and even in danger of being swamped by a second group led by Evenepoel.

The Verdict
Historic but not a vintage addition. TV coverage from start to finish showed off the scenery but the sporting spectacle was more predictable, viewers didn’t miss much if they only sat down for the final hour and from then on things were gradual and predictable rather than chaotic. The race feels better if it starts in Bergamo and finishes in Como. To glance at the result is to see Pogačar won yet again but it was the manner of his win that impressed and there was suspense in the end, especially because he took off on descent.

Once again Pogačar gets cited among the greats, this time joining the six member club of three time Lombardia winners, and becoming the third rider after Alfredo Binda and Fausto Coppi to win three in a row, and he’s only just turned 25. Andrea Bagioli’s second place was impressive, he won Gran Piemonte in the week, showing twice now he can hang with the best on mid-length climbs and packs a sprint and it’ll be interesting to see how he fares at Lidl-Trek. Roglič made the podium, a near-miss for a rider who must be looking around for the races he’s still to win, presumably the Tour de France and this is why he’s changing teams, although “passing Go” on his way to Bora-hansgrohe by the sounds of things too.

It’s hard to watch Il Lombardia without a wistful feel, the lengthening shadows, the fading light don’t just mark the end of an autumnal afternoon, they signal the cycling season is coming to an end and invite us to reflect on the season passed. Would Pogačar have signed up for this year’s results in January? You’d think he’d say no given he’d reject second place in the Tour de France, but there he was winning in October again and probably the best rider of the season, overhauling Jonas Vingegaard because of the range; and arguably surpassing Mathieu van der Poel for the span and in a season where he was out with injury for weeks.

The big names and teams are carving up the sport but if there’s dominance, it’s still spread between several teams, Jumbo-Visma made the grand tours their own but have come up short in the Monuments where Pogačar, Evenepoel and van der Poel have thrived, and while this season hasn’t quite finished, seeing which way the cards fall next season feels more enticing than some of the remaining races.

Finally Thibaut Pinot was awarded a goat by the organisers before the start. He’s finished his final race, celebrating with the fans massed at the curva Pinot. After Lombardia has media booked for Sunday evening in Paris, he told Swiss newapaper Le Temps that the train back home on Monday morning will be the train de la liberté, as media duties and visits to Paris – except for PSG games at the Parc des Princes – are probably the things about the job he’s liked the least. He promised to be back at the Tour but at a guess he’s more likely to be found roadside amid a cloud of merguez BBQ smoke rather than in a VIP zone.

60 thoughts on “The Moment Il Lombardia Was Won”

  1. “Mauri Vansevanant setting the pace with his pecking-chicken style” I call him Woody Woodpecker.
    Nice review. I’m happy as Pogacar sort-of channeled another fave of mine – Vincenzo Nibali. I love it when wins come from more than just watts/kg!
    Meanwhile, the gravel World’s was a dud – again I say just give the rainbow gravel jersey to the winner of Strade Bianche!!! Paris-Tours had dirt and a surprise winner – who the hell is Riley Sheehan? And why are they wasting money on Chris Froome when they have guys like this?

  2. Thanks for the review – the big surprises from Lombardia, for me, were Bagioli hanging on and Pogacar’s win a la Nibali. Roglic looked done, and said so afterwards, on the last climb. In fact the big disappointment was Remco crashing as he seemed to be in good shape for October. A big chapeau to Pinot of course – he’ll be missed.
    (Philipsen was the sprinter of the year, without a doubt, although De Lie will be one to watch next year)

    • Remco IMHO is a supercharged hemi engine in a shopping-cart chassis. Wasn’t that long ago he wiped-out big-time in this race. OTOH Thibault Pinot used to be awful going downhill, though his general bike handling and pack placement skills seem better than Remco’s. He’s still young so maybe he’ll get the hang of it? If/when he can get his bike-handling skills to match his motor…watch out…he might really BE the next Eddy Merckx!

  3. It was an exciting addition of Lombardia made all the more so with a worthy and well deserved winner.
    The one comment I would make about descending ability. The descents in that area are unforgiving in the extreme, with constant bends, many of which tend to tighten and offer little chance for a safe run off.
    A great race. Thanks to INRNG for a seasons informed comment.

  4. Pogacar’s already 25?!
    ‘Who knows where the time goes?’, as they say.
    Time to get serious about racking up those TdF wins I think.

  5. Nice write up. I never thought what Pog did on the descent was anything special or even an attack. Everyone just deferred to Rog who either was good given he just signed for 6 million euro with Bora or actually just tired like he said. Bagioli is the one who really should be kicking himself. This was no Nibbles or Mohpric descending display, just disinterest behind.
    And thanks for the Clark Sheehan / Riley info. Makes some sense now.

    • Oh sure, most people weren’t interested in being up there with Pogi, who, by the way, would duly tow them to the end, be it only to then win the sprint… or not… who knows. It was rather perfect time-picking by Pogacar, despite being clearly the most watched man. The descent wasn’t the decisive piece, but it was fast, or they’d have been way closer at the end of it (although I’ll admit it’s also a descent where you need to sprint several times).

  6. “ He promised to be back at the Tour but at a guess he’s more likely to be found roadside amid a cloud of merguez BBQ smoke rather than in a VIP zone.”

    Loved that….The way to do the TdF

    • Hadn’t thought about this – is anyone else currently racing even close? Can he rival MVdP in winning all 5 monuments? I’d say MVdP has the advantage at present but I wouldn’t rule Pogacar out before he hangs up the wheels. I wonder if WVA can get up there as well? I really get tired of the focus on TdF over everything else.

        • I think you’re right, that Pog is more likely, but MvDP has already raced to top 10’s in both
          Monuments he hasn’t won. So it’s not completely impossible for him to win LBL and Lombardia, just unlikely.

        • I didn’t look over the list of Lombardia winners but it’s hard to imagine someone the size of MVdP hasn’t ever won this race…against much smaller/lighter men. I think you make too much of watts/kg and not enough of skill and tactics.
          I assume you’d say Pogacar isn’t big/heavy enough to win P-R either which fits with the conventional wisdom, which is always correct…until it’s not.
          PS-why does anyone bother responding to Anon Y. Mous and Co? If you’re too big a wuss to put your name onto your opinion, why should anyone care what you think?

          • Yes people of MvdP’s size have won this race before. Quite a few I would imagine. Rik Van Looy once won it in a bunch sprint. Tafi won it by dieseling away on his own. Since then though they have put much longer, much steeper climbs, much closer to the finish. I say this every single year. MvdP can be as savvy and as smart as he likes but unless he gets taken up the Civiglio in a car next year he wont get to the top in sight of Pogacar.

          • Putting aside for a moment the question whether the comments written by Y. Mous are worth responding to or not, my general opinion on this suhject that, as a rule, it is totally uninteresting who has opined something; what is interesting (or not) is the opinion, the point raised and the facts and arguments presented.

            We are not – or I don´t think we should be – here to make ourselves known for a certain set of opinions or to portray ourselves as whatever we like to see ourselves. And if we start paying too much attention to who has written something or who once wrote something (we don´t happen to agree with), it tends to lead into stupid…feuds instead of open and balanced discussion that is of interest to other readers.

            But. of course, it is laudable to use your name – and it is advisable to, at the very least, employ a nick that separates one from the other Y. Mouses.

            And yes, even stupid comments can be responded to in an intelligent and entertaining manner, as we´ve seen here 🙂

          • Pog for sure way more likely to win all 5 than MVdP. LBL and Lombardia right now are climber’s races. But Pogacar has beat the big men at the Ronde and the climbers in Lombardia in the same season!! That itself is nuts.

            Oh, and he “only” came second at the Tour too….

            By far the best rider this year is Pogacar.

          • I can see Pog wininng Paris Roubaix, but MSR will be extremely difficult for him to pull off.

            MVdP having won MSR, or the “crap shoot” race as described on the Slow Ride podcast, makes him the slightly better bet to win all 5 monuments for mine.

          • The way Pog makes his way the kwaremont was unbelievable. If you can do this, I think a win in PR is not out of reach.
            However, in terms of versatility and capability, I think Wva is probably a better candidate to win the 5. Now his main problems are that is already 29 and that he is far for being a « killer » landing races thanks to seizing opportunities (a bit as Pog did in the downhill last week).
            I think remco’s also a potential all rounder, but there some work is necessary (bike handling, tactics) for msr and for the cobbled classics.
            Finally, don’t say never with mvdp. By loosing a bit of weight he could be closer to the win in lombardia and liege, and why not go for a win in a favourable scenario. Now that he has won the 3 other monuments and the world, this can be a good carreer target.

      • LOL – yes, the person who critiques our hosts’ writing can’t even complete a full sentence. Bravo Mr. Know-Nothing.

        BESIDES – this is our hosts’ fun-blog – perfect grammar is not on the cards, as he/she shows off his (will defer to this) great writing style, storytelling and grasp of the issues we really want more depth on without obsessing over perfect grammar. We’ll take it (and count ourselves extremely lucky), it is still the best writing that is available online to cover cycling.

    • It is a good suggestion… but there’s no office of staff here, no editor kicking their heels waiting for a post to proof. Some readers have helped before at times with corrections and suggestions. Will try to read and check things for the next time.

      • You’re doing an awesome job! This is one of the best cycling blogs in the bloggerverse – one I read for years for informed takes on everything to do with cycling. Keep up the good work!

    • Personally i like the stream-of-consciousness style. But the point did get me wondering: has a misunderstanding caused by a grammatical error on a cycling blog ever threatened to snowball into a global nuclear escalation?

  7. Stream-of-consciousness indeed. Takes some getting used to for grammar geeks like myself, but it’s refreshing to see someone who is not trying to cash in with “hot takes” or the latest product endorsement! As for Lombardia, here’s my hot take: another snoozer of a Monument where the result felt like it was very unlikely to be anything more than a mild surprise. I just can’t get too excited about these kinds of races. Now Paris-Tours on the other hand, obviously less star power but a lot more fun.

    • Paris-Tours was long the “sprinter’s classic” as it was pan flat. Then in the 2010s they had a nice format with the addition of the steep climbs in the final, a nice balance between attackers and sprinters and a compelling final half hour. The gravel sectors have taken a while but it’s now turning into a good race in part because bikes today can handle it when they couldn’t a few years ago, and in recent years it’s arguably been better to watch than Lombardia.

  8. A race that I’ve never had that much love for enthralled me for most of the day…
    Pog is just amazing watching him deal with cramp and stay away was stunning, really looking forward to a winter of Cross now

  9. The 2018 edition of the Giro di Lombardia has to be my favourite, the duel between Pinot and Nibali was great to watch.
    This one was pretty good too. Didn’t get to watch Paris-Tours, unfortunately.

  10. Question for the brains on here. I note quick stepdont have a squad at guangxi according to start list on pcs even though its a world tour race. They seem to be going to the Japan cup instead. Is this permitted then?

    • Likewise Ag2r, Astana and Groupama-FDJ. There’s an exemption for this race as with any races added to the World Tour since 2017 and since, eg Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, UAE Tour and the GP Frankfurt. WT Teams can take part but don’t have to.

      • Oh, I didn’t know that. I thought all World Tour races were compulsory for all WT teams. In the light of that I’m surprised so many WT teams have turned up to the race. It must be pretty expensive to send a team all the way to China & it’s not as if many (any?) of the WT teams have Chinese riders who want to ride their home race, as is the case with the even further away Tour Down Under. Are there many cycling sponsors trying to boost their profile in China?

        • I´d imagine that the expenses are to a great extent covered by the organizer who want to see WT teams in their race.
          For some teams it may well be a case of looking ahead to the relegation/promotion battle. The points earned this season are as valuable as those earned in 2025 🙂

          • Exactly, some teams will like the points on offer and the expenses (travel, flights) are covered by the race.

            Teams can get media exposure of course but I think it’s more a case of being able to say their media portfolio extends to China rather than lots of reach and attention.

            Astana are not here but they’re winning in Turkey at the moment and have just won the new Tour de Kyushu in Japan, so there are other ways to score too.

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